New Zealand's historic Christchurch Cathedral is to be knocked down, church authorities announced today.
The landmark was devastated by the earthquake that struck Christchurch just over one year ago. It is said to be too dangerous to leave standing and too costly to repair.
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Hundreds more millions of dollars than will be paid out by insurance would be required to restore the late-19th-century building, cathedral officials said in a statement.
Authorities are unsure yet whether the cathedral will be demolished entirely, the New Zealand Herald reported. The current plan is to "deconstruct" the building down to a safe of 2 to 3 meters, Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews explained, but added that a full demolition could not be ruled out.
The diocese hopes to build a new cathedral – not a replica – on a different site, she said.
The mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, described the news as "heartbreaking."
"We all have a sense of ownership in this building. This has not been an easy decision for the church. It is not an easy decision for many of us to accept either.''
Efforts are already underway to reverse the order, the Guardian reported: a city councillor, Aaron Keown, is establishing a formal group to fight for the cathedral's protection. He told the paper he would be willing to chain himself to the building to stop its demolition.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust called the decision a great disappointment, arguing for the reconstruction of the cathedral in a recognizable form. Engineers consulted by the Trust believe restoration would be feasible, the heritage agency said, and proposed that local, national and international funding be sought to finance the project.
However, others suggested that it was time to let go. Commentors on the Herald's website said that the cathedral was "just a building" and could be replaced, while one wrote: "We need a new beginning in Christchurch's centre, not to expend enormous energy fighting over a gloomy edifice built in stone both in an earthquake zone and on top of a swamp."
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